More books about NC should be made into movies

17 Why aren’t more North Carolina books made into movies? We ask ourselves even though the film, “Where the Crawdads Sing,” based on the popular book set in North Carolina was a great success last summer.

Thanks in part to the movie, the book’s sales continue to make the best-seller list. According to a July 14, 2022, article by Carrie Wittmer and Elizabeth Logan on the web site, “as of January 2022, the book sold 12 million copies, making it one of the best-selling books of all time.”

But we miss the days when every Nicholas Sparks book and every John Grisham book was made into a blockbuster film. Sparks lives in New Bern and Grisham has close family connections to Raleigh and Chapel Hill.

Both authors rank high on the list of “The Living Authors with the Most Film Adaptations” compiled by Lit Hub ( Sparks with 11 was topped only by Stephen King with 34. Grisham had nine and was topped only by John le Carre (10), Ian McEwan (10), and tied with J.K. Rowling (9).

Why are not more North Carolina books turned into movies? One of the reasons is explained by Jen Doll in an article republished on the Atlantic web site.

“But any way you look at it, the movie version of a widely successful book is bound to go wrong. Has any book lover ever truly been fully satisfied with the big-screen adaptation? The relationship we have with the book is personal and special; the relationship we have with the movie is more distanced from that, more passive, and certainly less demanding of us. We sit back and watch it play out, and we do so with a changed eye, having read the books. We're not going in as innocents but as experts; we know how the story goes, and we know what we expect. If we were more naive, new to the plot and characters, things might be different, but since we've read the books, and read them emphatically, possibly more than once, we can't know that for sure. We can only compare to what we do know, and already love.”

Acknowledging these difficulties, I would still like to see more North Carolina books made into movies. At the top of my list would be Wiley Cash’s recent novel, “When Ghosts Come Home,” set near Wilmington in 1985. The action begins at 3:11 a.m. when Sheriff Winston Barnes and his wife hear an airplane crash at the nearby airport. He rushes there, finding only a deserted airport, a crashed airplane, and the body of a young Black man shot in the chest. No fingerprints or other clues can be found, but almost certainly drugs were involved.

Race, small town politics, and international drug trafficking plus the common problems of ordinary people drive a mystery that captivates and leads to a completely surprising ending that would have movie goers holding on to their seats.

A book by respected North Carolina author Nancy Peacock, “The Life and Times of Persimmon Wilson,” had me holding on to my seat just the way a great movie would. The story begins, “I have been to hangings before, but never my own…”

Beloved North Carolina author Lee Smith explains the power of the book, “From this riveting beginning to the last perfect word, Nancy Peacock grabs her reader by the throat and makes him hang on for dear life as the action moves from a Louisiana sugar plantation to life among the western Comanches, bringing to blazing life her themes of race and true love caught in the throes of history. ‘The Life and Times of Persimmon Wilson’ is as deeply moving and exciting an American saga as has ever been penned.”

What a wonderful movie this story would make.

There are many more action-packed North Carolina books. Think of your favorites and how you would adjust them to make great movies.

Black culture, Black joy celebrated in new exhibit

15 The new exhibit at the Arts Council of Fayetteville/Cumberland County is showcasing Black Joy in all of its forms. In this partnership with Ellington-White Contemporary Gallery, artists of African descent showcase a celebration of cultural heritage while also looking toward the future of Black popular culture.

The exhibit is called “Soul & Spirit: Celebrating Black Joy.” The exhibit will be on display through March 4.

This unique national exhibition was curated by two nationally acclaimed artists and educators, Shirley Woodson and her son Senghor Reid. Woodson is an American visual artist, educator, mentor, and art collector most known for her spectacular figurative paintings depicting African American history.

Her work spans a career of 60 years and counting and can be found in the Detroit Institute of Arts collections, the Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History, and the Studio Museum in Harlem, among other institutions. Woodson was named the 2021 Kresge Eminent Artist.

Her son, Reid, develops figurative paintings and films that explore the connections between culture, art, the social sciences and the conservation of our natural environment. He attended the internationally recognized Marathon program at the New York Studio School of Drawing, Painting and Sculpture.

One of the artists featured in the exhibit, David Lee Black, told Up & Coming Weekly that showing Black pride in his piece is very important to him.

“Art is supposed to be a mirror of the world, representation matters and Black pride builds communities. Our society needs to see more color and hopefully, in my own individual way, the vibrance and mystery in my photograph,” Black said.

His photograph, “Guardian,” showcases a man and a woman looking off to the side. Black said that the shoot originally featured just the female model, who was powerful, beautiful and compassionate. But, at some point during the shoot, the bartender from the hotel pub walked by and Black asked him to pose.

“The backstory is, shortly after this shoot, he was tragically lost from us but his spirit remains,” Black said. 15a

“We humans are rather clever animals. We've managed to teach ourselves how to express ideas, as well as emotions through art. It really is amazing to think about. Perhaps the takeaway from this exhibit (and most good art), will be to embrace the emotion felt by the exhibiting artists that worked hard to encode through color, shadow and harmony to be decoded and experienced by the observers.”

Black History Month events

The Soul & Spirit exhibit is part of the Arts Council’s Black Culture Experience series in recognition of Black History Month. The Arts Council is committing to several events that recognize the achievements and talents of local and nationally renowned Black artists from the past, present and future.

The first event will take place on Feb. 4. They will show the almost hour-long film, “Talking Black in America: Roots.” This program showcases the enduring imprint of African heritage on Black American culture, language and identity. Before the film screening, there will be a Spoken Word performance from 3rd Rail from Black on Black Rhyme Carolina. Following the screening will be a discussion and a Question and Answer segment with the producers, Tracey Weldon, Neal Hutcheson and Walt Wolfram. The event starts at 2 p.m.

El'Ja Bowens, the event's moderator, says visitors should expect to see art and history displayed in one of its most natural forms — the art of storytelling.

“I hope that people take away a few things from this. One thing is that I hope they take away the rich history of the African culture and how that culture has been brought to America and still continues to be a part, not only of African history, but American history as well. I also hope that everyone appreciates the efforts that the producers have went through producing this series as this is only one of four films that covers this topic of importance,” Bowens said.

On Feb. 11, the Money Box Workshop aims to engage and teach children about money and the concepts of money. Crystal McLean and co-host Kishanna Heyward, two local best-selling financial literacy authors and advocates, have partnered to educate, empower, and enrich their community.

While the children are creating money masterpieces in their own workshops, parents and guardians can learn about financial concepts, such as credit establishment, budget creation, debt management, and more. This event, scheduled from 1 to 4 p.m., is geared toward children seven to 14 years of age and the parents/guardians of those children. Admission is free, and Black-owned Southern Experience Catering and Meal Prep will provide food.

McLean’s goal is to “transform African American Communities one child at a time.” By investing in programs to help children, particularly those of the African American community, those children can invest in their future with the appropriate tools to be successful.

On Feb. 18 there will be a Vibe & Create Beauty & Horticultural arts workshop from 5 to 8 p.m.

For more information about Black History Month events at the Arts Council, visit or call 910-323-1776. The Arts Council of Fayetteville/Cumberland County is a nonprofit organization based in Fayetteville that supports individual creativity, cultural preservation, economic development, and lifelong learning through the ARTS. They are located at 301 Hay Street in downtown Fayetteville.

Author, musician returns to Fayetteville to share first novel

15When Brendan Slocumb sat down to write his debut novel, “The Violin Conspiracy,” in the summer of 2020, he had but one goal: He hoped at least one person liked it.

Over a year since its publication, “The Violin Conspiracy” has garnered rave reviews, was named by Penguin Random House as a “Must-Read Book” of 2022, and was selected as a Good Morning America Book Club Pick. It’s safe to say his furtive goal has been met and exceeded — a fact the Fayetteville native still can’t quite believe.

“I am 100% floored at its success,” he told Up & Coming Weekly with a laugh. “The fact that it's found such a varied audience is incredible. I’m just geeking out over how many people write to me that relate to the story, had no idea this world existed, or have had their minds changed because of my book — it’s amazing.”

“The Violin Conspiracy” tells the story of Ray McMillian, a young, Black, classical musician whose dreams of becoming a world-famous violinist are stymied by the rampant racism within the fine arts realm and the theft of his great-great grandfather's priceless Stradivarius the night before the most important competition of his career.

It’s a niche subject but one the newly minted author knows well. A multi-instrumentalist, Slocumb, much like his character Ray, has dedicated his life to the pursuit of musical excellence. Since earning his degree in music education from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro, Slocumb has taught in both private and public schools and performed with orchestras throughout Northern Virginia, Maryland and Washington, D.C.

On Sunday, Jan. 22 at 3 p.m., the Friends of the Cumberland County Public Library will host Slocumb at Headquarters Library as he returns to Fayetteville to discuss his work. Following discussion and questions, Slocumb will sign copies of his book, which will also be available for purchase.

“We are excited and honored to host Mr. Slocumb at Cumberland County Public Library. The Violin Conspiracy is an absolutely riveting read, and I encourage everyone in the community to join us for this exciting program,” said Cumberland County Public Library Director Faith Phillips in a press release.

Slocumb, too, is excited about his return to Fayetteville. He credits the town and its proximity to Fort Bragg with enriching his life with so many different types of people. Fayetteville is also where Slocumb found classical music — a discovery he credits to saving his life.

“The strings program was a complete blessing,” he said. “Without that program, I wouldn't be here; I’d probably be in prison. I’m so grateful for the opportunities I’ve had, the people who helped me, and all the support I received from the community in general — it was life-changing. I appreciate my time there and am proud to say I'm from Fayetteville.”

The book’s protagonist, Ray, like Slocumb, is from a town in North Carolina and must choose between following his dream or wasting his talent by following paths charted by others. He’s a character drawn from Slocumb’s own lived experience, but he represents millions of other talented young people of color who are so often left out of narratives that delve into the world of high art.
Moved by the tragedy of George Floyd as it played across the world stage, Slocumb felt the time was right to bring the idea of Ray, a Black man burdened with a beautiful gift, to the forefront of contemporary literature.

“Ray is a lot of people, mostly me, but there are thousands of Ray McMillians out there,” he shared. “I think people are waking up to the fact that he exists in many forms, and they're giving this character a second look — seeing him with different eyes.”

While holding up his character as an object for inspection, Slocumb hopes that Ray's story invites and creates a meaningful dialogue around the unspoken racism and institutional bias within the world of classical music.

Historically, classical music is a European art form — originating in the mid-18th century in countries like England, Austria, German, France and Italy. However, it’s move across the Atlantic to American shores has done little to move the diversity needle. Even today, the genre remains overwhelmingly white. Less than 2% of classical musicians are African American, and only about 4.3 % are conductors.

The lack of diversity within professional classical music sends a clear message to minority youth that their access to that world is limited, and their dreams of one day being a part of it are impractical. With his novel, Slocumb hopes to bring some sorely needed visibility to the Black musicians quietly waiting for their turn in the spotlight.

“There is one Black person on stage at the New York City Philharmonic,” Slocumb stated. “That’s not at all representative. I know discrimination in classical music is common, but I think it’s out of sight, out of mind. I hope my book shines a light on the real instances of racism and discrimination in classical music and gives a voice to people who wouldn't have one otherwise. I’m really proud of that.”

Slocumb’s next novel, “Symphony of Secrets,” is slated for release in April, and the writer/musician is just excited to be along for the ride and interested in wherever this journey leads.

“I’m just open to anything that comes along,” he said with a smile in his voice. “I’m not looking for anything, but not going to let anything pass me by. I’m writing book three, and I’m just thrilled to be riding this wave of classical music.”

Visit or call 910-483-7727 for more information about the Friends of the Cumberland County Public Library, Inc. and the library programs they support.

To learn more about Brendan Slocumb, visit his website at

Cape Fear Studios holds annual ‘Cabin Fever’ exhibit

12aCape Fear Studios will be holding their annual, non juried exhibit, Cabin Fever Jan. 26 through Feb. 21. An open reception will be held Jan. 27 from 6 to 8 p.m. at the studio in downtown Fayetteville.

“Cabin Fever was set up to be a show after the holidays, after the hardest part of winter is over and everyone has been locked in their house because of the cold,” said Steve Opet, Cape Fear Studios board president.

Opet has been involved with the studio for eight years, and is an artist himself. He has submitted his own work to previous Cabin Fever exhibits. Opet said the studio has been holding the exhibit every January for around ten years.

Cape Fear Studios has been a part of the Fayetteville community for 33 years. The non profit artist co-op holds a new exhibit every month, with gallery receptions coinciding with Fourth Fridays. The receptions are always open to the public, as is the studio throughout the week.

“When visitors come into the studio, they are not only welcome to view the current art show but they are welcome to walk into the actual artist studios,” Opet said. “Most days we have several artists working in their studios. People are allowed to see the artists at work and ask questions and interact.”

The gallery is entirely run by the artists, each donating their time to run the front desk and take care of administrative tasks. Grants from the Arts Council of Cumberland County help allow the gallery to have their monthly exhibits.

“The Arts Council help support us, and keep us going,” said Opet.12b

Opet said he is excited for this year’s Cabin Fever.

“Usually for the main gallery a big show is about 40 pieces. For Cabin Fever we get between 25 to 40 pieces. Hopefully we get 40 pieces this year,” he said.

Cabin Fever opens Jan. 26. The show can be viewed during gallery hours, Tuesdays through Fridays, 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Saturdays 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.
The studio is located at 148 Maxwell Street in downtown Fayetteville, next to the Fayetteville History Museum. The exhibit is open for all local residents 18 and over to enter. Artists can submit up to two pieces.

A People’s Choice award will be given during the reception on Jan. 27. Attendees can vote for their favorite pieces, and the winner will be announced before the reception is over.
Call 910-433-2986 or visit and click on the “call for art” tab to view the show’s prospectus for more information.

‘States of Mind: Paintings by Angela Stout’ on display at Gallery 208

12Gallery 208 opens its first exhibit of the new year with States of Mind: Paintings by Angela Stout on Jan. 19.

A painter, printmaker and sculptor, Stout is an artist who chooses to investigate the portrait as a subject in her work. Visitors to the exhibit will experience a less obvious theme as the likeness of each individual dissipates into moments of discovering our humanity — one portrait at a time.

Seeing a body of work by Stout is a palatable experience, a contradiction between the physicality of paint and illusion — feelings are conjured. We experience each work as a comprehensible moment; although abstracted, the artist evokes an emotion, something familiar.

Stout practices the art of camouflage. We are enamored by the skills to create a likeness, yet a feeling emerges from the artist’s manipulation of material, illusion and the physical. An image on canvas or paper has the potential to evoke a type of certainty, often a dichotomy.

In the painting titled “Deterioration,” a fair-haired young woman looks intently at the viewer through the lens of a yellow-green filtered pictorial environment.
The surface of the 36”x 36” painting on canvas has been deliberately scratched, the surface marred in a way that the flat illusionistic layers of paint physically separate away from the painted surface.
The marred mark-making begins to move across the figure — color and paint are released from the surface — the figure remains motionless. A feeling emerges as we experience the physicality of the paint in contrast to a transfixed illusionary figure suspended in spatial disorder.

Seeing “Deterioration” viewers will have their own interpretation of meaning. For me, Stout has created a situation, and I find myself responding with empathy to the fixed figure in the painting, I feel moved to say “just breathe.”

In comparison, the artist limits herself to the talent of illusionistic painting to evoke meaning in the blue painting titled “O.” Duality is present. Stout has masterfully created hard and soft at the same moment.

We experience the hardness of cold in contrast to the soft supple flesh of the individual. The figure exists in a state of contrast: grace and hardship, obscurity and specificity, flatness and texture.

“O” is an example of how the artist balances the theoretical and the emotional. The artist explained how she created a technical problem to resolve. 12a

“In this painting, it was to focus on balancing the achromatic with the chromatic, without it being noticeable. Since emotion is central to my work, it was important to create a feeling of coldness, an emotional or physical aspect of being cold.”

We naively enjoy Stout’s work without knowing a process has always taken place to resolve a complicated technical order. If we look closely at the painting titled “Suppression,” the order is more obvious. A male figure stretches the edge of an American flag across his face just below his eyes. As he gazes upward the softness of the flag hangs below his clenched hands.

Examining the technical, we see that the young man is painted in tones of grey, whereas the flag is painted in saturated colors. The red and blue are in strong contrast to the greys. The implied diagonal movement of the stripes and arms directs us to the eyes as a focal point. The white of the background, stars and stripes are flattened patterns. Without spatial reference, the white is strategically used as composition, but also holds the figure between foreground and background.

An extensive exhibition record, “Suppression” was exhibited in an international online competition in Milan, Italy, in 2020. Collaborating with photographer Neysa Wellington, the M.A.D.S. Milano competition call for art was to celebrate the art of photography and how photography is a resource for painters.

In the exhibit, Wellington’s photograph was exhibited with Stout’s interpretation of Wellington’s photograph. The result for Stout was the painting titled “Suppression.”

At the height of COVID, Wellington and Stout’s submissions were accepted; both were part of the online exhibition, their works projected outside the gallery on monitors during the epidemic. Visitors to States of Mind will see a body of work by a well-known local painter but also an artist who regularly creates prints.

12bOriginally from Warren, Ohio, Stout is a disabled veteran who lives in Broadway, North Carolina, and has soared to success after completing a four-year art degree in 2020. After earning an Associate Degree in Visual Art from Fayetteville Technical Community College, she completed a Bachelor of Art in Studio from Fayetteville State University.

Upon leaving the university, Stout had already developed a clear path for the direction of her works of art.

She stated: “All my art focuses on evoking feeling. I focus on the portrait, but they have underlying social themes. In addition to the philosophical concerns in my work, I maintain a romantic view of beauty in the world around me.”

After completing six art history courses in her program of study, Stout was also clear on those artists, living and deceased, who would influence her own work.

Stout commented, “I am connected to modern and historical art methods. My love of painting is inspired by Baroque artists Michelangelo Caravaggio and Rembrandt. Other major historical influences are Henry Ossawa Tanner and John Singer Sargent. Modern influences are Gerhard Richter, Kehinde Wiley, and Cindy Sherman.”

The newest works by Stout are regularly exhibited at the Cape Fear Studios in Fayetteville.

Stout teaches what she has learned about painting and clay modeling in the continuing education program at Fayetteville Technical Community College. In her filled painting classes, students learn what visitors to Gallery 208 will see: Stout understands the properties of color and how to apply them in a work of art. The public is invited to attend the opening reception for an artist whose work always tells us something about ourselves and the world around us.

When visitors to the Gallery spend time with the work, they will come to understand how the paintings by Stout go far beyond a relative or exact likeness of an individual. Stout’s work, like any good work of art, is in the work’s potential to tell us something about our culture in an enlightening and collective context.

States of Mind: Paintings by Angela Stout opens on Jan. 19 from 5:30 to 7 p.m. at Gallery 208. The exhibit will remain up until March 24. The Gallery is located at 208 Rowan Street in Fayetteville. Gallery hours are Monday through Thursday, 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. For more information call 910-484-6200.

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